Alpine Training

At the end of 2012 Dr Stuart Barr and Alistair Ford from the Geospatial Engineering group paid a visit to the University of Innsbruck for a week of discussions, demonstrations and workshops with the ‘Umwelttechnik‘, or the Unit of Environmental Engineering. The group of Professor Wolfgang Rauch specialises in urban water management through novel modelling approaches which link traditional hydraulic modelling with cutting-edge urban, infrastructure and agent-based models. Since the Geospatial Engineering group is interested in environmental sustainability and climate change, the entire journey from Newcastle to Innsbruck was undertaken by train!

Catching up on some reading...

During the week, the researchers from Innsbruck demonstrated their innovative models of water infrastructure development. These link physical simulations of water supply and sewerage systems with future projections of urban growth, allowing assessments of network performance under climate and socio-economic change. Also demonstrated was the ‘ACHILLES‘ approach (link in German) to network failure assessment, ranking each component according to the impact its failure may have on the whole network. The group are based in the Faculty of  Civil Engineering, based on the new technical campus of Innsbruck University. The view from their offices is quite impressive…

A meeting room with a view!

The work of the Newcastle Geospatial Engineering group was also presented to demonstrate alternative techniques for urban development modelling being developed here. Fruitful discussions followed, leading to possible collaboration and crossover activities. The opportunity was also taken to learn about new computing and processing techniques being developed in the Innsbruck group (using GPU processing for hydraulic simulations) and to discuss contrasting open source modelling frameworks being developed by both groups.

After five days of excellent discussions and collaboration, the Newcastle delegation took some time on the Saturday to see the other sights that Innsbruck had to offer before catching the sleeper train back home.

Dr Barr scales the peak (this time on the cable car instead of on foot!)

Unfortunately the snow wasn’t quite deep enough for any alpine sports, although I wouldn’t want to try this one anyway:

The view down the Bergisel ski jump, used in the 1976 Winter Olympics. Scary...

Thanks to Wolfgang and his group at Innsbruck for being such excellent hosts, and look out for news of future collaborations between the two groups.

The End


SOCET GXP Image Exploitation

Last week I attended a training course in Cambridge on Image Exploitation using SOCET GXP. The photogrammetric software, developed by BAE Systems, is the latest release and the successor of the SOCET SET software. As this is going to be the intended software I will be using for my 3D modelling of buildings, and with nobody in the Geospatial Engineering department having any experience with SOCET GXP (SOCET SET is currently installed on the computers), I was chosen as a representative from the University. The majority of the attendees had military backgrounds, two from the Swiss and two from the American military. There was a few from industry, including two from a 3D modelling company in London.

The four day course started with a basic introduction to the software and getting to know our way around the windows. SOCET GXP has made several alterations to SOCET SET, most significantly the interface. GXP has two main windows, the Workspace Manager and Multiports. The Workspace Manager is where all the data is managed, and the Multiport is where the data is displayed. Data is loaded from the Workspace Manager into Multiports. Previously, SOCET SET could only load two images at a time. Now with GXP, four images can be loaded, either as a singular view with the imagery in layers, similar to that of ArcGIS, or in a tiled panel. GXP has also adopted the ribbon menu approach, similar to that seen in Microsoft Word, which makes it much easier to find things compared to SET. After drawing and editing the image, various formats can be used as outputs, for example a screenshot can be exported straight into PowerPoint, shapefiles can be created in a geodatabase, and GeoPDFs can be produced.

After the first two days of familiarisation with the software, the final two days looked at the capability of data extraction, in both 2D and 3D using stereo. Tools in the toolbox are segmented into different types depending on their functionality; draw tools, mode tools (which describe how the draw tool operates) and modifier tools. Cue Cards help explain how to use the tool, making them very straightforward to use. One of the main tools in the software which may prove worthwhile in my project is the Automatic Feature Extraction tool, which can depict building outlines and trees based on a set of parameters. Having only used this tool on lidar data, it will be interesting to see what results it yields for aerial imagery. For 3D extraction, several models exist in GXP, such as planar roofs and gabled roofs. These can usually be utilised by defining a ground point and the rooftop points. Although this is an easy option for modelling, it cannot be incorporated into my work-flow due to its heavy reliant on manual interpretation of ground and roof points. The accuracy of the building is therefore dependent on the analyst.

As well as learning about the software a vast amount of ‘networking’ was undertaken over the four days.

The course has given me an insight into the new and existing capabilities of SOCET GXP and how it can potentially be utilised in my research project.


From Newcastle to Darlington and back again…a tale of infrastructure failure.

Two members of the Geospatial Engineering team (David Alderson and Craig Robson) were due to present their current infrastructure/network-related research at the recent ITRC Early Career Researcher’s conference, held at Cambridge University on November 27th 2012. As such both embarked on a journey, departing from Newcastle at 0556 on the morning of the 27th, that would end having only reached as far South as Darlington…approximately 6 hours after departing! The cause of being only able to travel a few miles in that time…a flood-related failure of the rail network leading to a loss of power to the train and line between Durham and Darlington.  A set of images taken on the day of the failure illustrate the researcher’s plight. – the train being towed (or not) by a DIESEL-powered engine – the train being stuck… – the water rises

The presentations that were due to be delivered are now available, along with a recording (cringe) of each presentation given by David and Craig.

Transport Planning Society: Applying GIS and Open Data in Transport

On a snow-covered evening, transport planners, policy makers and those generally interested in transport-related data, made their way to the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences’ Cassie Building, for a Transport Planning Society organised event; Applying GIS and Open Data in Transport. The promise of tea, coffee, and the odd mince pie drew those in from the cold…only to discover that caterers had fallen foul of the snow and icey conditions, leaving the audience with little other sustenance than having to digest the two presentations delivered during the evening.

Initially we heard from CESER researcher Alistair Ford on the work he and colleagues in the School have been doing, looking at climate change mitigation and adaptation within an urban context. This work was conducted as part of the Geospatial Engineering team’s involvement in the Tyndall Cities programme, and the ARCADIA projects. The delivered presentation can be found here and here (click both links to retrieve all slides, the first link is just slides 1-20, and the second 20-37).

The audience then heard from Graham Grant from the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority (TWITA). Graham discussed the possibility of some UTMC-compliant data streams being “opened” to developers, potentially allowing access to approximately 5 pre-approved data streams, with some real-time data included. There are approximately 20-25 datasets that could be made open to developers, and so Graham (contactable at and colleagues will be looking for developers to prioritise that list, and help select data of most interest to them.

UPDATE: The list is now available: UTMC Data Sources – Provided by Graham Grant.

Thanks to Laura Hanson (CEG), and Nicola Hill (Senior Transport Planner, ARUP) for organising the event. Find out about more Transport Planning Society events here.


Identifying the hierarchical structure of networks – Presentation summary

On the 26th October, as part of the monthly Geospatial Engineering meeting, I presented an update on some of my research thus far, since beginning my PhD last September. The presentation focused on some of the more recent research I have been doing, associated with identifying a hierarchical structure in networks. Below is a summary of the work and a note on future presentations.

It is acknowledged in infrastructure literature that some infrastructures have a hierarchical structure, different from the traditional theoretic network structures. These include common models like the random model, scale-free and small-world structures.  The main difference between graph structures is the distribution of node degree, the proportion of nodes which are connected to a certain number of edges. A hierarchical structure (looks like a tree) would be expected to have some sort extra organization in it, leading to an underlying hierarchical structure, such as a tree. If it can be shown that this is true and hierarchical networks can be identified, it may be shown that the structure of these are significant and thus may allow for the improvement of the resilience of such networks.

The research utilised the networkx python library, a complex network package. This allowed for the creation of the common network structures mentioned earlier, as well as for the analysis of these through an extensive collection of analysis algorithms. To create a better representation of hierarchical networks, two in-house algorithms were developed to soften he transition between random networks and the balanced tree network, an explicit hierarchical network.

The first set of analysis was performed using common graph metrics such as degree (the number of edges connected to a node) and the average shortest path across a network. A suite of graphs were created for this analysis which covered a range of sizes and complexities for all graph types. This led to the identification of a pair of metrics, which in combination, allowed hierarchical networks to be separated from the other graph structures in the analysis. (The metrics which were identified are the assortativity coefficient and the  max betweenness centrality value).

The accuracy of this was confirmed through a series of statistical test, for all pair wise combinations, including chi-squared tests as well as transformed divergence tests to compare the distribution patterns of the metrics of all graph types. In the majority of cases it was shown that the distributions for the graph types did not match in many cases, and there was a significant difference between the rest and the hierarchical structures.

This shows that there is a significant difference between the structure types  and thus further investigation into the significance of this, as planned, is worth while completing as there could be future implications on the resilience and design of infrastructure networks. This work will involve resilience analysis of the range of network structures so the results can be compared and the significance quantified. In the longer term this work will be applied onto real-world networks.

A similar presentation with recently completed work will be presented at the ITRC Early Career Researchers Conference at the end of November.


Visit of Peat Allan, Principal Consultant, Ordnance Survey – 11/10/2012

As part of Geospatial Engineering’s involvement in developing a national-scale infrastructure asset database, alongside developing spatial and topological representations of multiple national-scale infrastructure networks, we have been liaising with the Ordnance Survey about our data requirements. As a project partner of the Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC –, under which this infrastructure work is being undertaken, the Ordnance Survey has supplied multiple datasets and feature types, at various geographic scales, from a range of their products, including infrastructure features from Points of Interest.

A meeting between those involved in this work from Geospatial Engineering @ Newcastle, and Peat Allan, Principal Consultant at Ordnance Survey, took place on October 11th to discuss the use of OS data for network creation. A number of examples of spatial and topological network creation from Ordnance Survey Meridian and Strategi Road and Rail data were discussed, leading to specific discussions regarding data requirements for infrastructure and environment projects being undertaken at the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at Newcastle University, and more widely within the research community.

As follow up to these discussions, further meetings between those involved in infrastructure projects within the School will be held within October and November to try to understand and identify where there may be common “knowledge and data” gaps across different research projects. It is intended that this information is fed back to the Ordnance Survey to help understand where further information is required to facilitate infrastructure-related research projects.

Geomatics and Water Seminar Series

Hi all,

This week saw the restart of our seminar series in conjunction with the water group from within our School. A weekly event during term time, with seminars held on Monday lunch times, sees a good turn out from staff, researchers and students from both the undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes.

To kick-off this year we hosted Muki Haklay from UCL speaking on ‘Crowdsourced geographic information and citizen science – can we trust the data?’ With a strong turn out from all, the presentation went down well amongst those present. The presentation included many interesting and thought provoking points as well as intriguing results about the accuracy of Open Street Map compared to Ordnance Survey data.

Next week the series sticks with a geospatial engineering theme when Simon Buckley from the Centre for Integrated Petroleum Research (Bergen) will be presenting ‘Integration of close range hyperspectral imaging and terrestrial lidar for geological outcrop mapping’.